For a victim of human trafficking, being rescued is just the first step in a long journey toward true restoration and healing. While Operation Underground Railroad’s (OUR) core competency and primary focus was initially working with local and federal law enforcement in the rescue of victims, while also providing evidence for prosecution of traffickers, they have always understood the critical role of aftercare for survivors; this specialized “aftercare” for victims is now an area where OUR is making a major difference in the lives of survivors. These men, women, and children have endured incredible abuse and need specialized care and resources to help them live healthy, safe, productive lives in their own communities.
O.U.R. strives to provide personalized care to each survivor they encounter. They assist survivors with medical care such as surgeries, dental work and therapy (including equine and canine therapy). In the U.S., O.U.R. efforts also include court advocacy, connecting survivors with free mental health services or mentors, vocational training, college scholarships, and holistic support to the family unit when Child Protective Services (C.P.S.) determines a survivor can return to their family.
Another large part of O.U.R.’s efforts in the U.S. is working with trusted organizations with specialized care for certain groups of individuals. For example, women in the adult entertainment industry are an often-overlooked demographic, and O.U.R. strives to cover the costs of shelter and transportation as these women flee trafficking situations.
Domestically O.U.R. does not have the authority to determine where survivors are placed, but based on their network, they can make recommendations for aftercare homes / facilities that have the ability to provide care. OUR strives to strengthen, and support the organizations, homes, and facilities with which they collaborate in assisting trafficking victims.
O.U.R. has found the most effective model for aftercare is empowering and supporting in-country aftercare centers. Through collaboration with agencies and organizations across the globe, they have been able to support the care of survivors far beyond what they would have been able to do on their own. In order to be most effective, they found that people who have already invested years in the country are the experts and understand the culture far greater than those who do not live there.
O.U.R. carefully evaluates aftercare centers around the world with which to collaborate. Aftercare “partners” work directly with the O.U.R. Ops Team and government officials to communicate regarding upcoming rescues and the predicted needs, such as additional social workers or medical professionals in-country. O.U.R. aftercare team has a wide variety of backgrounds of working with survivors and support services, but also utilizes the evaluations and standards of the country, as determined by local social workers. O.U.R. strives to empower local staff at aftercare centers around the world, and provides training to ensure the centers provide the highest quality care. O.U.R. also connects each organization, home, and facility with their network, and act as consultants and liaisons between different groups.
Internationally, O.U.R. is able to be directly involved with the aftercare of survivors. O.U.R. facilitates the care of any survivor they are asked to help, not just those they rescued. Survivors are often referred to O.U.R. by aftercare homes when they are not able to meet a specific need for a victim. For example, extensive medical needs, education, additional mental health workers, community outings or community integration activities, and celebrations are not easily accessible in some countries. O.U.R. efforts often focus on ensuring survivors receive holistic services.
In the United States as well as globally, two primary factors which lead to becoming a victim of human trafficking are poverty and lack of education. If these two issues are not addressed after being rescued, trafficking victims are most likely to become “retrafficked”. As part of O.U.R. collaborations, survivors are provided with resources for education and employment. In addition, many survivors are provided with business classes and capital to start their own businesses. O.U.R. strives to support survivors in their dreams for themselves and their dreams for their children.